How can citizens help prevent stormwater pollution?

In the summer, it seems like someone in a residential neighborhood is washing their car every day. Giant buckets of water are mixed with car soap  and the car is scrubbed clean. Cleaning the car is not the problem, the problem is what happens after the wash is complete. After they finish washing their cars, people tend to toss the soapy water down the driveway, and leave it to eventually fall down a stormwater grate. While yes, what they are dumping is water, it is not water that should go through the stormwater system. This is one of several issues that stormwater faces in civilian areas.

Where does the water go?

Stormwater grates lead water to our streams, rivers, lakes, and wetlands. While grates now often adorn an embossment of a fish, as seen below, as a reminder that we should not dump water down stormwater drains, unfortunately not everyone gets the message. As a civilian, there are several things that can be done to actively work toward a cleaner stormwater system. The easiest way to keep our waters clean is, when washing a car minimize the amount of soap used, and when finished dump the soapy water into a sink inside and not in the street. The systems in which water is carried through for sinks and other appliances can handle and remove the chemicals of the soap. Water that goes down stormwater drains is not treated and affects wildlife.

Another way to make a difference in a community, is picking up any large pieces of cardboard or trash blocking the grate from getting any water. While the city often cleans these grates, they cannot clean them all every day. So, if you see a large piece of card board, some plastic bags, or bottles, pick them up and make a personal effort into keeping our environment clean.

How can I make a year-round effort?

 During the fall, another bad habit of communities is to sweep leaves and other organic debris down to storm grates. They may think, “This will decompose, so it won’t hurt the water supply like other trash.” While they are right about organic debris being able to decompose, they are wrong about the harm it can do as it doesn’t break down as fast as they think. Leaves and other organic debris can clog storm drains as easily as other trash, and should not be swept toward drains. To make a difference, when walking around the community keep an eye out for any clogged drains that have piles of leaves on them, and try to clear them. Again, the city should clear drains frequently but if a large rain comes and the drains are clogged flooding will occur.

There are more things that can be done as a citizen of both the community and the environment.  These are a few suggestions to get positive change started. Ensuring that polluted water, debris (organic or otherwise), and any other non-water liquids are not dumped down stormwater grates is something that everyone can do.  

Now that you have learned more about how to protect stormwater in your neighborhood, contact Restoration and Recovery to learn how we can help you with your commercial stormwater needs.  

What Can Citizens Do to Help Prevent Non-Point Source Pollution - UC Irvine EHS

Wash Your Car and Keep the Environment Clean